Measuring Public Value A competing values approach Herbert Simon Institute

Measuring Public Value
A competing values approach
A paper for The Work Foundation
Colin Talbot
Herbert Simon Institute
Manchester Business School
1. Introduction
2. Public Value
3. Public values
4. The Competing Values Framework
5. Competing values and reforming public management
6. Competing values and measuring public value
7. Conclusion
8. References
Measuring Public Value
1. Introduction1
This paper seeks to address the apparently intractable problem of measuring ‘Public Value’ (PV)
through the relatively simple device of recognising ‘competing values’ and applying them to the
measurement of organisational success in public services.
The ‘Public Value’ approach has fast become an established (if as yet minority) approach to
assessing the success (or otherwise) of public services and organisations in the UK, Australia
and some other countries. A wide variety of organisations from the BBC to the Scottish
Government – including police forces, local authorities, public sports and arts organisations –
have adopted some variant of a public value approach. Research in the field is also increasing
and various think tanks (eg The Work Foundation and IPPR) have become involved. It has also
stirred up a lively academic debate.
Two questions invariably arise in discussions with practitioners and policy-makers about ‘Public
• The first is what is ‘Public Value’ (singular) and is it possible to have a single ‘public
value’ in a world of conflicting public values and institutionalised competition between
values systems (ie through democracy and political parties)?
• The second – which assumes a positive answer to the first question – is how can we
measure ‘Public Value’? In particular, even if a single concept of PV can be established,
is it not primarily subjective and therefore difficult if not impossible to measure
This paper will propose that an approach based on the ‘Competing Values Framework’ (CVF)
offers a potential answer to both these questions. It will argue that there is no singular PV but
multiple public values. The common ‘solutions’ to these multiple values is either aggregation
and/or choice – so, for example, political parties represent both aggregation of some values
within each party and choice between them.
A CVF approach argues instead for balance between a limited set of fundamental choices or
values, none of which can be ignored and all of which have to be satisfied to some extent to
achieve excellence in public service.
I am grateful to The Work Foundation for financial and intellectual support in developing this paper
Measuring Public Value
2. Public value
The idea of ‘Public Value’ has been championed through the work of the Kennedy School’s
Mark Moore. His seminal Creating Public Value (see Moore, 1995) has been highly influential in
current UK debates. In particular the publication by the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit of its own
version of PV (Kelly et al., 2004, Kelly and Muers, 2002) was highly influential with a range of
public sector policy-makers.
Moore’s original work emphasised three aspects of performance for public agencies:
• Delivering actual services;
• Achieving social outcomes;
• Maintaining trust and legitimacy of the agency.
It was the third of these points which was relatively novel and in many ways offered a counterbalance to the rather narrow ‘economistic’ New Public Management (or at least some version
of NPM) which had dominated much of the 1980s and 90s especially in ‘anglo’ countries (Pollitt
and Bouckaert, 2004).
Trust and legitimacy in public agencies and their activities serves several positive functions
– it encourages at the very least compliance and at its best active cooperation and even ‘coproduction’ between individual and corporate citizens and state agencies. It legitimises the
raising of public funds to carry out collective action projects that the market would not provide. In
a more general way it raises social capital by increasing overall levels of trust in society.
Moreover the PV concept outlined an active, strategic, role for non-elected public servants in
both defending and developing their services. Moore has not been the only scholar to champion
such a role – a number of recent publications have argued in a similar vein – if not using the
language of Public Value (eg Denhardt and Denhardt, 2003, Radin, 2006, Radin, 2002, Bryson,
2005, Terry, 2002).
Mark Moore has also tried to produce a more ‘operational’ definition of Public Value in the form
of a ‘public value scorecard’ (Moore, 2003) – produced in direct reaction to the private-sector
inspired ‘balanced scorecard’ (Kaplan and Norton, 1996) and the latter’s application to public
and non-profit organisations.
Measuring Public Value
Public value
Moore (see Figure 1) suggests several measures of ‘operational capacity’, alongside measures
of ‘support and authorisation’ in a similar approach to that adopted not by the ‘balanced
scorecard’ but many quality models such as the ‘Baldrige’ award criteria in the USA or the
European Quality (‘Excellence’) model. These approaches have all emphasised both a
‘capacity’ or ‘enabler’ element and also a ‘results’ aspect to assessing performance (see Talbot,
1999 for a discussion of some of these issues).
In what follows we will look at both reforms aimed at organisational capacity (see Section 5) and
also at outputs, outcomes or results (see Section 6). Others adopting and adapting the ‘Public
Value’ approach have developed a range of factors to measure, including at its most complex
the BBC’s Public Value tests.
However what none of these approaches seem to adequately account for is the contradictory
and conflicting demands placed upon public agencies. In the next section we discuss this thorny
Measuring Public Value
Public value
Figure 1: Mark Moore’s Public Value Framework for Accountability and Performance
Expanding Support and
Funder relations and
Volunteer roles and
Visibility, legitimacy,
with general public
Relations with
Reputation with media
Credibility with civil
society actors
Creating Public Value
Building Operational
Productivity and
Financial integrity
Staff morale, capacity,
Partner morale,
capacity, development
learning and
vision, mission
Strategic goals
Links among
goals, activities,
outputs and
Range of
Activities and
outputs that create
Source: (Moore, 2003)
Measuring Public Value
3. Public values
Recently Ipsos MORI, the polling organisation, sought to sum up what it had found about British
attitudes across a range of issues during a decade of extensive polling since New Labour
came to power in 1997 (Marshall et al., 2007). Their analysis shows consistent patterns in the
‘often contradictory nature of public opinion’ (p5), and indeed Ben Page2 has gone so far as to
describe public attitudes as ‘cognitively polyphasic’ – ie they perceive problems and issues in
more than one way simultaneously.
Ipsos MORI’s ‘six oppositions’ in British behaviour and opinions in ‘Blair’s Britain’
Parent and children v Adult-to-Adult:
Government is often seen to take a controlling, parental stance which can prompt citizens
to react in a recalcitrant way. However, the rise of choice in public services requires citizens
to make active and informed decisions and, thus, demands an adult dialogue.
Individual v Community:
People increasingly want services that are flexible, responsive and personalised, signs that
we are acting as individuals. At the same time, people have a strong affinity to local issues
and the opportunities to get involved in communities of association are widening (often
through the use of the internet and new technologies).
Having it all v Tough choices:
Rising standards and expectations coupled with increasing choice has meant that the ideas
of ‘having it all’ and consumption per se are positively valued. But, at the same time, people
are becoming more aware of the social and environmental implications their behaviour has,
and discussions about our ‘footprint’ on the planet have become commonplace.
Consumers v Citizens:
This has been a key debate over the past ten years. While people like the idea of choice
in public services in principle, the market implications, such as perceived risk of postcode
lotteries, are often unpalatable. People want to be treated like consumers by public services,
but also recognise the resource constraints, conscious that, as citizens and tax-payers,
they foot the bill.
Ben Page is Managing Director of Ipsos MORI Public Affairs – he was speaking at a Conference in 2007. The phrase
‘cognitive polyphasia’ was first coined in MOSCOVICI, S. (2000) Social Representations - Explorations in Social
Psychology, Cambridge, Polity Press
Measuring Public Value
Public values
Small club v Big tent:
This represents two competing schools of thought around the welfare state. The first holds
that it should remain all-encompassing and offer support to those that need it; the ‘big tent’.
On the other hand, concerns about competition for finite state resources has led others to
take a different stance — that welfare should only be granted to those that have earned
the right for help.
Turned-off v Clued-up:
This final opposition reflects the fact that while the British are now more savvy and demanding
than ever, and certainly more active in voicing their preferences, they are also reluctant to
actively participate, frequently cynical about whether they can influence change.
Source: (Marshall et al., 2007)
The authors also note that these six oppositions are probably ‘the 2007 British versions of some
eternal conflicts and paradoxes of human societies’ (p60).
In this section of the paper it will be argued that there are indeed some ‘eternal conflicts and
paradoxes’ in what the public values and that the ways in which these have been traditionally
conceived has been partially misleading to researchers and policy-makers alike.
The idea that there are conflicting views in society about what might constitute ‘the good life’
and how we get to it is nothing new, since such debates have been going for at least the length
of recorded history and if not before. In modern parlance this takes the form of democratic
pluralism; ‘interest groups’; ‘stakeholders’; and many other forms of approach and theories.
They all share the common assumption that different individuals and groups have different
From this perspective the two great achievements of modern human civilisations are democracy
and the market – two very different, but complimentary, systems for ‘aggregating demand’, that
seek to reach some sort of agreement about resource allocation to satisfy conflicting desires.
The market aggregates demand through the interplay of individual and corporate economic
decisions – to buy or not – which iterate through competitive mechanisms to reward those
who produce goods and services that enough people want, whilst penalising those who do not
Measuring Public Value
Public values
produce enough of what people want, at the right quality and/or price, by driving them out of
Democracy aggregates demand through very different mechanisms of coalition building,
bargaining, and ultimately voting on how many resources should be devoted to collective action
and how, within the public domain, these should be allocated and managed.
Underlying both these institutions is the assumption that people have a set of fairly stable
preferences and desires which they seek to achieve through rational choices and actions. What
the Ipsos MORI research points to is that individuals do not have stable preferences, or even
stable ways of thinking about them, but ‘flip-flop’ between different desires and even ways of
thinking about them – in other words ‘cognitive polyphasia’.
There is a developing stream of research and theory which supports the idea that humans
and their institutions are fundamentally contradictory in their motivations and actions and,
interestingly, these contradictions – I prefer the term paradoxes – only have to be fairly limited in
number to produce huge scope for variation. One is reminded here of DNA which uses only four
complementary bases – adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine (ATCG) – to produce all the
amazing variety of life on Earth.
Just to take a few examples, relevant work includes: research and theorising about altruistic
versus, or rather as well as, ‘rational utility maximisation’ (Le Grand, 2003, Margolis, 1982); their
origins in human evolutionary history (Sober and Wilson, 1998, Talbot, 2005); relational models
theory (Fiske, 2004, Fiske, 1991); as well as the competing vales framework we use in this
Measuring Public Value
4. The Competing Values Framework
The Competing Values Framework (CVF) emerged in the early 1980s from studies of public
sector organisational effectiveness conducted at the Institute for Government and Policy
Studies, at the State University New York at Albany. It has since evolved and mutated in many
forms, but the underling principles remain constant and extremely useful.
CVF asserts that human organisations are shaped by just two fundamental contradictions – the
desire for flexibility and autonomy versus the need for control and stability; and the focus on
internal concerns and needs versus responsiveness to the external environment.
Figure 2: Summary of the CVF approach
Human Relations Theory
Collaborate culture
Open Systems Theory
Create culture
Control culture
Compete culture
Internal Process Theory
Regional Goal Theory
Measuring Public Value
The Competing Values Framework
The above summary model pulls together some of the main (although by no means all) aspects
of CVF.
The two dimensions – flexibility-control and internal-external – produce four quadrants. Working
from the centre outwards in the above diagram each quadrant has implications for managerial
roles (in the centre), organisational types, and organisational cultures. Each of the quadrants
has been embedded in four phases of organisation and management research and theory,
which are in the outermost layer.
The absolutely key point about CVF is that this is not an ‘either/or’ model but rather a
‘both/and’ approach.
CVF Literature
The most well known examples of the CVF approach are in a couple of popular books aimed
at managers’ own roles: Beyond Rational Management (Quinn, 1988) and Becoming a
Master Manager (Quinn et al., 2007).
A more theoretical exploration is to be found in Paradox and Transformation (Quinn and
Cameron, 1988) and the recent Competing Values Leadership (Cameron et al., 2006)
contains a summary of much of the research base.
Work on organisational culture is developed in Diagnosing and Changing Organization
Culture (Cameron and Quinn, 2006).
There have also been some interesting explorations of how CVF applies to innovation in
organisations: Leading Innovation (DeGraff and Quinn, 2007) and Creativity at Work
(DeGraff and Lawrence, 2002).
A very practical exemplar is given in the account of how the US Nuclear facility at Rocky Flats
was cleared up in 10 years rather than the estimated 70 and for $6 bn rather than $36 bn –
Making the Impossible Possible (Cameron and Lavine, 2006).
An interesting attempt at applying CVF to recent UK governance and policy reforms is to be
found in Modernising Governance (Newman, 2001).
Measuring Public Value
The Competing Values Framework
In other words, every organisation will have some degree of each of the characteristics of
each quadrant – whilst some organisations may exhibit stronger tendencies in one direction or
another at different times, all will have some element of all four sets of characteristics. (This is a
fairly unique approach as in most cases these two-by-two matrices, known as ‘Boston Boxes’ in
the trade, are most often used as forced choice ‘either/or’ categorisations.)
If we solely take the cultural aspects of the CVF as an example, data from surveys of a large
number of (mainly US) organisations suggests that public administration organisations tend to
be strong in the Control quadrant, but much weaker in the other three.
Interestingly, however, a recent large survey of Thai civil servants using the CVF approach
found a much higher ‘Collaborate’ quadrant score, whilst the others remained similar to US
results. This suggests that the strongly collaborative nature of Thai national culture, with its
stress on ‘harmony’ from the Buddhist tradition, is reflected in its public administration culture
and, moreover, the research shows it is hard to shift from this basic pattern (Jingjit, 2008).
How does CVF relate to measuring performance? It offers a form of ‘balanced scorecard’ by
showing that performance means different things in each competing quadrant but that all are
In one of their more recent publications, Cameron and Quinn and colleagues have carried out
a very interesting analysis of the performance of top private sector companies using a CVF
framework to determine what sorts of competing or contradictory measures of performance are
required in each quadrant of the CVF model (see Table 1).
Table 1: Competing performance measures
Measures for quadrant
Proxies used
Gross margin
Asset turnover
Change in EVA growth
Sales growth
Standard deviation of market model errors
Future growth values
Sales/number of employees
Source: (Cameron et al., 2006 p95)
Measuring Public Value
The Competing Values Framework
Their analysis concludes that the best companies – by market rankings – tend to do well,
relatively, in all four quadrants of competing performance measures.
They are not unique in suggesting that highly successful organisations tend to have
contradictory or even paradoxical goals – one of the best selling of recent business books Built
to Last (Collins and Porras, 1994) reached the same conclusion, if using slightly different sets
of contradictory goals. Going back even further, what was probably the best selling business
book ever, In Search of Excellence (Peters and Waterman, 1982), contains a much neglected
discussion about the contradictory and paradoxical nature of individuals, organisations and
CVF is a highly integrative approach – it not only seeks to integrate contradictory or
paradoxical elements within organisations and management through the framework itself but
it also integrates vertically different levels of organisations within the same framework – from
individuals preferences for relating to one-another, through managerial roles, organisational
structuring and culture, up to the basic theories governing organisational life. It applies
to leadership and innovation, as well as strategy and operations. So any performance
measurement and reporting approach based on CVF would have the advantage of being
easy to tie to other aspects of the organisation – something that is not true of many other
approaches. In most cases issues of management, leadership, strategy, structure, culture,
innovation and performance are treated separately or at most in relation to one or two other
factors. CVF is fairly unique in that it brings them all together. This obviously offers huge
advantages when it comes to thinking about public sector reform and performance which we will
consider in the final chapters of this paper.
Measuring Public Value
5. Competing values and reforming public management
Public services reform over the past two decades or more has gone under the rubric of the ‘New
Public Management’ (NPM), a phrase most often attributed to a seminal article by Christopher
Hood (1991). Since then many researchers have pointed out that there has been a great deal of
variation in actual reform programmes (eg OECD, 2005, Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2004). Looking
back even further, US academic Paul Light identified four ‘tides of reform’ which recurred in
efforts in reforming the US federal bureaucracy since 1945 – scientific management; the war on
waste; the watchful eye; and liberation management (Light, 1997).
NPM in the USA – The National Performance Review
Applying the CVF approach to public management reforms in the USA also produces interesting
results. The biggest recent reform effort in the USA is usually associated with the Clinton
administration and especially Vice President Gore’s ‘National Performance Review’ (NPR)
and later renamed the National Partnership for Reinventing Government. As the later name
suggests, this programme was heavily influenced by the book ‘Reinventing Government’
(Osborne and Gaebler, 1992). However an analysis of the recommendations of the book (see
Figure 3) and the final recommendations of the NPR (see Figure 4) suggest that the latter was
much more focused on ‘cleaning up the bureaucracy’ than introducing the sort of entrepreneurial
government advocated by Osborne and Gaebler.
Figure 3: CVF – Public Management Reforms – USA – Reinventing Government
Mission-driven (not rule driven)
Anticipatory (prevention not cure)
Results-oriented (outcomes not inputs)
Decentralised (hierarchy to networks)
Community-owned (empowering)
Enterprising (earning not spending)
Market-oriented (leveraging change)
Catalytic (steering not rowing)
Customer-driven (not ‘producer capture’)
Based on ‘Reinventing Government’ (Osborne and Gaebler, 1992)
Measuring Public Value
Competing values and reforming public management
Figure 4: CVF – Public Management Reforms – USA – National Performance Review
Empowering employees to get results
Cutting red tape
Putting customers first
Cutting back to basics
Based on Gore and National Performance Review (1993)
NPM in the UK
Similarly, UK academics have identified four separate trends within what has been lumped
together as ‘NPM’ in the UK (Ferlie et al., 1996) (see Figure 5 below).
Figure 5: CVF – Varieties of NPM in the UK
In search of excellence
Public service orientation
Downsizing & decentralisation
Based on Ferlie et al (1996)
The four categories of NPM do not exactly fit onto the CV framework – some aspects of
‘decentralisation’, for example, were more about cleaning up the bureaucracy and reinstating
proper levels of delegation than anything more radical. Nevertheless there is a fairly close
match overall.
Measuring Public Value
Competing values and reforming public management
A more detailed analysis of UK reforms over the past three decades would include all the
elements listed in Figure 6.
If this were broken down further by political criteria then it would be very noticeable that whilst
the Conservative Thatcher-Major governments of 1979-1997 tended to concentrate on reforms
in the bottom two quadrants, the New Labour Blair-Brown governments of 1997-onwards have
pursued reforms in all four quadrants as has been analysed by Janet Newman using a CVF
approach (Newman, 2001).
Figure 6: Competing Values Framework – UK Public Management Reforms
‘Joined-up government’
Participation and consultation
Networks and partnerships
Participation and consultation
Policy experiments and pilots
Evidence-based policy
Mission statements
Transparency, FOI
Devolution and empowerment
Allocative efficiency
Strategy and business planning
Regulatory reform
Resource controls
Human resources and Information
Market type mechanisms
systems reform
contracting out and outsourcing
Service Standards
League tables
Performance targets
Efficiency drives
External audit and inspection
Measuring Public Value
Competing values and reforming public management
NPM in Ireland
I recently carried out an independent analysis of Irish public sector reforms as part of an OECD
study. Using the CVF approach again it was possible to identify the pattern of reforms and
conclude that Ireland had concentrated mainly on reforms in the ‘control’ quadrant and made
relatively much smaller efforts in the other three quadrants.
Figure 7 CVF and Public Service Reforms – Ireland
Quality customer service (to
Openess, transparency and
Strategy and business planning
Quality customer service (to the
Financial management
Human resources management
Regulatory reform
Information systems management
Performance measurement
The aim of this brief section has been to demonstrate the utility of using a CVF approach to
analyse public management reform efforts and understanding more clearly what they are – and
are not – focussed on.
It is worth saying that having a ‘balanced’ reform effort – ie efforts in all four quadrants – is
not necessarily a good thing. If the tensions and possible trade-offs between different efforts
remain unrecognised and unmanaged then having contradictory or paradoxical reforms can
prove highly damaging – leading to very destructive conflicts. If they are recognised and
managed they can – just possibly – lead to creative tensions. However the latter – as the private
sector studies mentioned above tend to demonstrate – is extremely hard to achieve. More
often, multiple conflicting initiatives are often characterised as ‘initiativitis’ or producing ‘reform
overload’, incoherence and poor alignment of effort.
Measuring Public Value
6. Competing values and measuring public value
Applying the competing values approach to ‘Public Value’ yields a way of examining the
conflicting public values with which all public agencies have to deal in a coherent and
understandable manner.
Figure 8 sets out an initial attempt at mapping what needs to be assessed to produce a rounded
picture of the public value contribution of a public agency, using the CVF framework.
Figure 8 Competing Public Values
Social outcomes
Social capital and cohesion
Consultation & participation
Trust and
Reliability & resilience
Service Standards
Personalisation & flexibility
Equity and due process
Costs & efficiency
Relative Quality
The key elements to this approach would be to what extent does public agency X satisfy the
public on these five dimensions:
1. Trust and legitimacy?
2. Collectivity?
3. Security?
4. Personal Utility?
5. Autonomy?
Measuring Public Value
Competing values and measuring public value
Trust and
Trust and legitimacy is placed at the top of this list deliberately, in line with the Public Value
approach, because without it none of the others are possible. It is also placed in the centre of
this diagrammatic representation because trust and legitimacy is expressed differently in each of
the four quadrants. Moreover it is only by maintaining a balanced approach to satisfying public
demands in each of the four quadrants that trust and legitimacy can be maintained – tilting too
far in any one direction will tend to undermine overall trust in the public domain and the specific
agency. Too much emphasis on ‘security’ aspects, for example, could tend to undermine any of
the other three.
Measures of general trust and legitimacy in an agency might be derived from:
• Stakeholder, user and public surveys;
• Analysis of audits and inspections;
• Levels of complaints.
Collectivity refers to those more altruistic values of public and communal interest that the public
aspire to without necessarily being of direct benefit to any particular individual. For example,
people may want to see social outcomes such as a well-educated society, even though they
themselves are already well-educated and would not derive any direct personal benefit from
such an outcome. Or they might favour a reduction in child poverty, even though, again, they
and their families would not directly benefit.
Measures of collectivity might include:
• Measures of specific social outcomes for which an agency is responsible – eg
education, child poverty, etc;
• Measures of active co-production by users of services – eg engagement in sporting
activity for Sport England;
• General measures of social capital and social cohesion (Dasgupta and Serageldin,
2000) and of specific community actions – eg neighbourhood watch schemes for
policing agencies;
• Measures of effective partnership working.
Measuring Public Value
Competing values and measuring public value
Security here refers to the many virtues of traditional public administration and dare we say
bureaucracy – reliability, consistency in standards, equity and due process and controlling costs
and efficiency (bureaucracy is actually a relatively efficient system) (Du Gay, 2000, Goodsell,
1994, Wilson, 1989).
To take a topical case – citizens hand over personal data to the state for a wide variety of
reasons and they expect that good public bureaucracies will ensure that information is used
impartially and is safe and secure and not ‘lost in the post’. More broadly, public agencies are
expected to contribute to an overall sense of security and reliability and to be there when they
are needed – for example in emergencies like the floods in the summer of 2007.
Specific measures of security might include:
Personal utility
Measures of resilience and reliability;
Measures of service standards, including minimum standards for processing times etc;
Measures of equity and due process;
Measures of costs and efficiency.
Personal utility has been the recent focus of much public policy – especially policies directed to
choice and personalisation of services. For example, Comprehensive Spending Review 2007
commits the government to:
‘meet rising expectations by matching the standards offered by the best of the private
sector, with flexible, personalised, tailored public services that treat people with care,
respect personal preferences and appreciate the value of people’s time’ .(p31)
The underlying values being expressed are those of personal self-interest and comparative
advantage – put crudely, ‘what’s in it for me and mine?’ It should be stressed that this is a
perfectly legitimate focus for public agencies, but as with the other dimensions of performance,
it needs to be balanced against other imperatives. Measures of personal utility might include:
Measures of the degree of choice available;
Measures of personalisation and flexibility of services;
Accessibility of services;
Relative quality of services (to each other and to similar services in other sectors).
Measuring Public Value
Competing values and measuring public value
Autonomy here refers to the desire for personal freedom and determination. This includes
consultation and participation, which in turn requires complete transparency and accountability
in public services. This also includes an element of innovation and creativity – namely that
services constantly evolve and transform themselves to meet new needs and changing patterns
of preferences.
Measures might include:
Measures of transparency and freedom of information about services and agencies;
Measures of accountability of agencies;
Measures of degrees of consultation and participation in shaping services;
Measures of innovation in services.
The above is a very provisional list of both areas of focus and specific issues and measures.
The main point here is to emphasise – as indeed Quinn, Cameron and colleagues have done
for the private sector (Cameron et al., 2006 Chapter 6) – that there are competing and in some
ways conflicting foci for performance and public value creation.
This is probably best illustrated by example. The issue of the terrorist threat within the UK is a
useful one – the challenges posed by this threat for criminal justice agencies are complex and
• A security focus requires that the government and public agencies deter, detect and
where possible eliminate terrorist threats (at reasonable cost).
• An autonomy focus requires that government and public agencies actions against
terrorism are accountable, transparent (in so far as this is possible) and do not intrude
unduly into an individuals person liberties.
• A collective focus requires that social cohesion is enhanced rather than undermined
through anti-terrorist actions and that citizens’ are engaged in ‘co-production’ by
collaborating against terrorist threats.
• A personal utility focus requires that individuals are as far as possible not unduly
inconvenienced by security measures (eg long delays at airports).
Measuring Public Value
Competing values and measuring public value
• And finally a trust and legitimacy focus is essential to ensuring that the public –
collectively and individually – trusts the state, public agencies and each other to engage
fairly and democratically in meeting the threat of terrorism.
It is fairly obvious from this that some of these objectives clash – for example tight security
at airports ensures delays unless large extra resources are deployed, which costs money;
stringent security checks on passengers can lead to unwarranted infringements of privacy; etc
On one level public managers and leaders know that these sorts of trade-offs, balancing-acts
and paradoxes are the very stuff of political and administrative work in a democratic society.
What taking a CVF-based approach does is allow us to systematise our understanding of these
problematic issues and surface them for debate and judgement.
It also suggests that any ‘solution’ or performance measure which drives too far in any one
direction is likely to provoke an equal and opposite reaction at some point. This is not to suggest
that a perfect balance has to be struck at all times – in different contexts, cultures and situations
a specific configuration may be appropriate and this may change over time. As Mark Moore has
emphasised, Public Value is less a destination than a permanently on-going process of creation
and re-creation.
Measuring Public Value
7. Conclusion
This has been a very tentative attempt to suggest a way in which a ‘Public Value’ and a
‘competing values’ approach might be synthesised into an approach which could give some real
purchase on the problem of ‘measuring public value’. It is very much a ‘work in progress’ and
needs a great deal more elaboration and discussion.
Some of the suggested areas of measurement in the previous chapter are relatively new
and would require considerable effort to operationalise. But before getting to that stage, it is
necessary to have a clearer understanding of what it is we need to measure to identify ‘public
value’. This was the main intention of this paper.
Too much of public debate about the general benefit – or otherwise – of the public domain
has tended to be skewed by ideas emanating from rational choice and public choice theories
in recent years. They are, to quote the title of a recent physics book ‘not even wrong’. That is
they deal only with one of the foci in a CVF-based approach, that which is in the bottom-left
‘compete’ quadrant. Whilst ‘Public Value’ offers a starting point for redressing the balance, I
would argue strongly that it needs grounding in a theory of organising, and indeed in a theory of
human nature, which CVF and related theories offer.
I would like to conclude by thanking the numerous public managers who have helped me
in developing these ideas. I am sometimes told not to get ‘too theoretical’ when talking to
practitioner audiences, and once or twice organisers of events I have been speaking at have
been somewhat aghast that I propose to talk about seemingly highly theoretical issues such
as those discussed above. On the contrary, the most lively and engaging debates I have
had with practitioners have occurred when discussing CVF and broadly related approaches
to understanding the paradoxes of social, organisational and public life. In my experience
practitioners ‘get it’ very quickly indeed and usually breath a sigh of relief when they can see
that the daily dilemmas, contradictions and paradoxes they struggle with have a perfectly
rational explanation.
Measuring Public Value
8. References
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